The Negotiation Process:
The University may be notified that your grant has been recommended for funding, but be asked to negotiate or defend your budget and possibly other aspects of your plan before your award is finalized. A budget that has unnecessarily broad categories without sufficient budget detail will invite further scrutiny and clarification. Keep in mind that it may be necessary to prioritize or find alternatives for the items in your budget if, for instance, the full amount of requested funding is not approved. Questions may be raised about your objectives, proposed activities, your timeline, or your evaluation plan. At this stage the funding agency wants to be assured that your grant has realistic goals and objectives and a sound budget before an award letter is issued. You will need to work closely with Research Service Center staff during this process to ensure a successful result.
The Award Letter:
Read your award letter carefully. Make sure the amount is correct, the dates are correct, and that it does not contain any unanticipated obligations. (Example: the award letter states that you must attend two grantee meetings and that funds to pay for your travel will come out of your travel budget.) Does it state whether or not you will be able to carry forward funds from one year to the next? Is there any fine print? Does it contain special provisions that might affect your project? (Example: “Materials produced with...funds must include a disclaimer...and cite the funding source...and are in the public domain.”)
Make copies of the award letter and any attached forms and send it to the Office of Sponsored Programs.
When a proposal is accepted for support by a funding agency, an award document will be sent to the Research Service Center (RSC). Should a formal acceptance be required, the RSC will execute such a document.
The sponsor and the University assume that the project director/principal investigator, operating within both the policies of the University and sponsor, is responsible for the programmatic and financial integrity of the project. The project director is expected to maintain a close relationship with his/her dean and the RSC during the course of the project to ensure smooth project administration.
RSC staff will meet with the principal investigator/project director upon the funding of a project to review award terms and conditions. Such items as project reporting, budget limitations, and University policy will be discussed. A unique account/cost center will be established for each project and funding period.
All project charges will be recorded in the established account. This will serve as the official record in the event of an audit. Care should be taken to charge the project account for all expenditures so that an E & G departmental account is not unfairly burdened with inappropriate charges.
It is expected that the project director will review the account summary, note any discrepancies on the Monthly Financial Review Form, and return it to RSC in a timely fashion. Any issues of concern should be discussed with RSC.
You must document all expenditures (with bills, invoices, receipts, etc.) and have a clear audit trail. If you have to show a match or in-kind contribution as a condition of your grant, you must also have documentation to back it up.
All expenditures should be in line with your approved budget categories.
Federal funds must be separated from other sources of funding, so that expenditures and costs can be clearly tracked. Financial Status Reports must be based on actual expenditures at the end of the reporting period and cannot be based on estimates or other methods of projection.
You must keep time and effort records for anyone paid out of grant funds; if an employee's salary is partially paid from the grant, and the employee divides his or her time between the grant and other duties, then records need to clearly show that distribution of time.
Program and Budget Modifications
Sponsoring agencies have varying restrictions upon deviations from approved tasks and budgets. However, reasonable requests for change may be considered as the sponsor is just as concerned with a successful outcome of the project as you are. Project staff should be aware of sponsor restrictions as stated in the project award and OSP should be consulted prior to implementing any changes. In some cases, approval must be specifically authorized by the sponsor before a change may be made. Any requests for a change to the sponsor should be routed through RSC. The dean should also be consulted and kept abreast of any such changes.
The project director/principal investigator is primarily responsible for complying with all reporting requirements. Failure to do so can jeopardize future awards to the University. Financial reports will be prepared with the assistance of the RSC.
Closing A Project
At the end of its project period, the project director must meet with RSC budget staff to discuss sponsor requirements before closing the project to ensure that project activity and charges are brought to conclusion within a reasonable period. Upon the clearance of all project charges and the filing of all required reports and final reimbursement by the sponsor, the account will be closed.
A ninety-day grace period is generally allowed to process any late invoices or otherwise outstanding payments. There is an expectation that all final reports will be filed during this time. Should activities and charges extend beyond this period, you jeopardize the University's ability to recover any costs incurred. If you envision that activities will not be completed by the end of the project period (not the ninety-day grace period), you should request a time extension from the sponsor prior to the end of the project. These are routinely approved and may solve any potential problems.